UC Berkeley News
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Berkeleyan

Campus moving forward with 'southeast quadrant' planning
Practical and aesthetic benefits ahead for town and gown alike

27 April 2005

As recently as last football season, the rehabilitation of Memorial Stadium was still barely a gleam in Coach Jeff Tedford's eye. But with a game plan finally taking shape - preliminary though it may be - what once was bad news for the Bears is turning out to be encouraging news for the campus's southeast quadrant.

In fact, campus officials envision no less than a "renaissance" for the area, with upgraded facilities for the Boalt Hall School of Law and the Haas School of Business as well as the athletics department. The plan also calls for seismic retrofitting, pedestrian plazas, landscaped open spaces, bicycle routes, better disabled access, and a host of other improvements.

And while the X's and O's are yet to come, the team itself is primed for action. Last fall, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau appointed Karl Pister, formerly UC Santa Cruz chancellor and dean of Berkeley's College of Engineering, to head a 30-member Memorial Stadium Advisory Committee. That panel selected the current proposal from three concepts developed by Studios Architecture, an international firm that has worked with several other UC campuses. Birgeneau embraced the recommendation, hailing it as "the centerpiece of a sweeping new vision" for the stadium and environs, and tapped Pister as chair of the Southeast Campus Steering Committee.

Catherine Koshland, vice provost for academic planning and facilities and a member of the steering group, also chairs a pair of program committees focused on the plan's two major components: the academic-commons project, which aims to better integrate athletics and academics, and the long-awaited renovation of 82-year-old Memorial Stadium. These panels will consider input from Boalt, Haas, and Athletics, along with representatives from other units in the quadrant, students, the Academic Senate's Committee on Academic Planning and Resource Allocation, and various campus leaders. Then, working with two architecture firms whose selection is imminent, they'll develop conceptual plans for the academic commons and review the concept for the stadium.

Chief among the considerations, Koshland said, will be "what the law and business schools and athletics identify as collaborative possibilities," their shared needs and desires, and their preferences for how best to use their existing spaces.

A few details are emerging. Noting that Facilities Services (formerly Capital Projects) is already handling numerous campus projects, including several large ones, Koshland said an outside firm will manage improvements in the southeast quadrant. The current intention is to retain the so-called Piedmont/Gayley houses, she said, adding that planners hope to seismically retrofit the buildings and integrate them with the stadium and the academic-commons project.

The future of Calvin Lab remains under discussion, Koshland said, though committee members have asked representatives of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which owns Calvin Lab, "not to plan on long-term use" of the structure. Many staff currently housed in Calvin, she added, are already slated to move to Stanley Hall when it is completed.

The ambitious makeover, tentatively called the Southeast Campus Integrated Project, will be consistent with the recently approved 15-year growth plan for the Berkeley campus, and planners will eventually prepare a draft Environmental Impact Report for public review and comment. The project was driven initially by concerns over seismic safety at the aging stadium, which straddles the Hayward fault, and by the facility's failure to meet the 21st-century needs of fans and student athletes alike.

But campus officials came to view the need for renovations as an opportunity to revitalize the entire southeastern corner of campus, with practical and aesthetic benefits for the campus community as well its Berkeley neighbors. Birgeneau has called it "a smart, skillful approach that addresses all of our goals for the stadium, provides critical new facilities for law and business, and achieves our larger desire to integrate and enhance the various dimensions of students' lives."